Pope Francis has been lauded recently as both Time Magazine and The Advocate's "Person of the Year," with many citing his more socially conscious piety as a revolutionary stance within the Catholic Church. The Advocate in particular recounted the Pope's now famous quote as evidence of his, and the Church's, evolving stance on issues surrounding the LGBT community: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge?"
More recently, however, the Pope said he was concerned and "shocked" about news of possible gay adoptions in Malta.
Over the weekend, the Vatican denied that new remarks from Pope Francis are an indication he is open to the idea of same-sex unions.
Francis, in a conversation with leaders of religious orders published by a Jesuit journal on Friday, said the Catholic Church had to try not to scare away children who live in complex family situations, such as those whose parents were separated and those living with gay couples.
Francis gave the example of a little girl in Buenos Aires, his former diocese, who confided to her teacher the reason she was always sad was that "my mother's girlfriend doesn't like me".
The pope told the leaders of religious orders that a great challenge for the Church would be to reach out to children living in difficult or unorthodox domestic situations.
"The situation in which we live now provides us with new challenges which sometimes are difficult for us to understand," the pope said, according to the transcript of the conversation.
"How can we proclaim Christ to these boys and girls? How can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing? We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them," he said.
Italian media sources claimed on Sunday that the Pope's words indicated an openness to legal recognition of civil unions for gay couples, with some even stating that the Pope explicitly spoke about such unions. He did not, and now Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has said that the media's reports were a "manipulation" and "paradoxical" to Pope Francis's worldview.
Lombardi said the pope was merely "alluding to the suffering of children" and not taking a stand on the political debate in Italy.